A Brief History of Plymouth

A Brief History of Plymouth
Ian Parson

When I left school in 1981 Plymouth was a city dominated by the Dockyard. We were led to believe that if we accepted the status quo we would be gainfully employed, probably at the yard, until we reached 65 years of age.
After that we would see out the rest of our days in a house bought and paid for, surrounded by doting grandchildren. We would be cared for by a National Health Service equipped to cater to every whim. Plymothians in their thousands left school and entered the gates of Devonport Dockyard without giving the long term future of the city too much consideration.
What many didn’t fully realise in 1981 was this long established way of life was coming to an end. It would soon be over.
By the time I left Plymouth in 1989 the dockyard was in decline.
In the 80’s if you were different, a Punk, Mod or Goth you would expect to get chased back and forth across Royal Parade every time you went out of the house.
This was the way of things in the last part of the 20th Century. Change was afoot, we just didn’t realise it yet.
When I returned to Plymouth in 2005 the Dockyard was called Babcock Marine. A private company that employs about four thousand people. In 1981 Devonport Dockyard employed closer to 20 thousand.
Plymouth Polytechnic on the other hand is now a shiny new University. It has taken over the mantle of main employer. It spreads from North Hill throughout the town centre. Its arteries surfacing as multi storey tower-blocks in all the prime central locations.
Nowadays a single girl with pink hair, ripped jeans, pierced everything and covered in tattoos can safely stroll from The Hoe to Central Park. This is a vast improvement on the old days. Youth, diversity, energy are valued now in a City Centre that used to discourage individuality.
Plymouth City Council has opted to focus its main revenue gathering efforts towards the University. The finances entering Plymouth via the banks of China in particular are helping to keep not only the city clean but afloat.
Plymothians being exposed to other cultures is for the greater good.
The world is changing, whether we like it or not. In a few short decades every baby born on this planet will be part Chinese. We are going to need an open minded approach to the future. It will prove essential as we fathom out solutions to problems that affect us all. Its admirable that Plymouth has embraced the new century. This is a city that will never forget the past, but is now ready to move forward unhindered.

Plymouth born author Ian Parson at the world famous Smeatons Tower

Plymouth born author Ian Parson at the world famous Smeatons Tower

Plymouth born author Ian Parson at the new student tower blocks in Plymouth City Centre

Plymouth born author Ian Parson at the new student tower blocks in Plymouth City Centre

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